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Elder Abuse Laws in North Carolina

According to the National Council On Aging, “Elder abuse is a silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity, security, and—in some cases—costs them their lives. Up to five million older Americans are abused every year.” (1) Learn about elder abuse laws in North Carolina and find out what your rights are. Discover what resources are available to help.

Elder Abuse Is Often a Type of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence sufferers fall into many and varied categories. It is possible to be a victim of domestic violence whether you are 84 years old or 24 years old. Regardless of multiple factors, you can suffer abuse at the hands of another. 

Sometimes it is hard to see abuse because we have a preconceived idea of what an abuse victim looks like. However, whether we suffer from domestic violence does not depend on our:

  • Age
  • Mental or physical abilities
  • Socioeconomic or ethnic group
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Race
  • Religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Immigration status

Absolutely anyone can suffer abuse or domestic violence from another. No matter what you look like or believe, you have rights against domestic violence. If you live in the same household as someone who is abusing you in any way, you can obtain a domestic violence protection order by law.

Anyone in a personal relationship with you who is abusive is committing a crime according to domestic violence law. 

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by someone that causes harm to an older adult, usually defined in our nation around age 60 and up. Roughly 10% of our nation’s older population suffer from abuse. These types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Financial fraud, scams, and exploitation
  • Neglect and Isolation
  • Threats and verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Older People and Domestic Violence Charges

Elder abuse is violence against the vulnerable in our population. Unfortunately, older people are often embarrassed to admit they have been abused. Just like other groups who may feel like they are marginalized, older people often won’t admit they have suffered abuse from someone they trusted or depended on.

This lack of reporting causes some kinds of abuse to be underreported. The underreporting may happen because of shame. For example, many feel less ashamed when reporting fraud or exploitation of their finances than when reporting physical or mental abuse.

North Carolina Disabled Protection Laws

Each state defines elder abuse differently. For example, in North Carolina, there is no law specifically written for domestic violence abuse of older people. There is no specific law written just for older people who are victims of abuse. The domestic violence protection orders and other laws written to prevent abuse and help victims still apply, no matter your age.

However, the law does define abuse of disabled persons in the “Protection of the Abused, Neglected, or Exploited Disabled Adult Act.” This Act defines abuse situations in which a person is disabled or in need of caretaking services.

If you are disabled or need a caretaker, the “Protection of Abused, Neglected, or Exploited Disabled Adult Act” applies to you no matter your age. This act applies to older and younger people with mental or physical disabilities.

The Act includes three types of abuse:

  • Abuse:  willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation by a caretaker of services necessary to maintain mental and physical health
  • Neglect:  a disabled adult who is either living alone and not able to provide the services necessary to maintain mental or physical health (self-neglect) or who is not receiving services from his caretaker
  • Exploitation:  illegal or improper use of a disabled adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage (3)

If you know someone disabled who is suffering in an abusive relationship, contact the police or social services department. Anyone disabled or neglected is protected under the “Protection of the Abused, Neglected, or Exploited Disabled Adult Act” in North Carolina. 

Older But Not Disabled in NC

If you are an older adult living without a disability in an abusive relationship, you can file a domestic protective order. The abuser could be a spouse, a son or daughter, or perhaps a grandchild. Regardless of your age, if you are in a personal relationship with someone abusing you, you can file a domestic violence protective order giving you rights including:

  • Giving you possession of the household and excluding an abusive person
  • Requiring an abusive partner to provide you (as a spouse) and children suitable alternate housing
  • Ordering eviction of an abusive person from your residence and assistance for you to return home
  • Giving you possession of any combined personal property, including a pet or minor child 
  • Ordering an abusive partner to support you as a spouse (if required by law) 
  • Awarding you attorney fees
  • Prohibiting an abusive person from purchasing a firearm for a specified amount of time
  • Ordering additional requirements necessary to protect any party
  • Ordering sheriff to deliver protective order to any school principals named in the order
  • An order for an abusive person to attend and complete an abuser treatment program approved by the Domestic Violence Commission

A protective order can also order an abuser to refrain from doing any or all of the following:

  • Contacting you directly, or indirectly including thru third parties
  • Threatening, abusing, or following you
  • Harassing you by phone
  • Harassing you by visiting your home or workplace or by other means
  • Treating a household pet cruelly
  • Interfering with you in other ways 

No matter your age or level of disability, there are laws to stop the abuse. Talk with an attorney knowledgeable in domestic abuse protection orders to finding your way back to peace of mind.

Older Adults: Risk Factors and Healthy Choices

As you grow older, the risk factors for abuse are different from the ones a young person faces. The more common factors related to abuse as you age include:

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Being a woman
  • Being over the age of 80
  • Mental health or substance abuse issues 
  • Social isolation
  • Poor physical health 

You can increase your safety by:

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family on a regular basis
  • Staying involved in your community
  • Getting help for addictive behaviors
  • Watching out for aggressive people or anyone who deliberately crosses your boundaries

No matter what you do, there are always those who choose to act deliberately to hurt or take advantage of others. If you find yourself in a bad situation, don’t hesitate to find help. Many organizations are available to help you in North Carolina. 

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we can help you find legal protection from abusive behavior. No matter your age, gender identity, religion, culture, socioeconomic class, or immigrant status, we are committed to helping you find safety. If you need help filing for a Domestic Violence Protective Order, we stand ready to walk you through the process. Our greatest focus is domestic violence prevention and helping victims and survivors. Contact us for a free initial consultation and to find out how we can help.